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Misleading Terms & Conditions and Unfair Contract Terms: The Italian Competition Authority Opens Two Investigations against WhatsApp Inc.

On 28 October 2016, the Italian Competition Authority (the “Authority”) opened two investigations against WhatsApp Inc. for alleged unfair commercial practices. The first investigation by the Authority alleges that WhatsApp Inc. would have forced users to subscribe to new terms and conditions, in particular, a clause on the sharing of data with Facebook, by making users believe that, otherwise, they would have not be able to use the service. On another other side, the Authority opened a second investigation regarding other alleged unfair commercial practices. According to the Authority, WhatsApp Inc. would have included in its “Terms of Use” unfair contracts terms, including the exercise of the right of withdrawal granted exclusively to the company, the limitation on liability in favor of the company and the identification of the competent court for disputes resolution (currently only US Courts). Finally, the Authority also opened a consultation on these...

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Ad hoc Local Leniency Application Makes the Difference: The Italian Council of State Upholds the Administrative Court of Lazio Judgment on the Alleged International Road Freight Cartel

On 20 October 2016, the Italian Council of State (the “Council of State”) upheld the judgment of the Administrative Court of Lazio (“TAR”) on the cartel in the sector of international road freight forwarding to and from Italy and confirmed the ranking applied in granting the reduction of the fine. According to the Council of State, in order to access the national leniency program, a company should provide the Authority with all necessary information and elements for the uncovering of the infringement, and should take into account that all the relevant information and elements provided to other authorities, in the context of other leniency application, will not be considered by the Authority. Therefore, companies should be careful and verify that each leniency application submitted is prepared ad hoc for each jurisdiction and is not capable of raising doubts regarding its scope. On 5 June 2007, DHL submitted to the European Commission an application for...

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Activation of Premium Services, The Italian Competition Authority Fines Telepass for Unfair Commercial Practices

On 20 October 2016, the Italian Competition Authority (the “Authority”) fined Telepass of EUR 200,000 for alleged unfair commercial practices. According to the Authority, Telepass would have activated a premium service (premium option extra) to consumers, who activated the simple premium option, without their consent. In particular, Telepass would have adopted a mechanism based on the tacit consent of the consumers, giving them an opt-out option, which consisted in the exercise of the right of withdrawal within 60 days. The main feature of this decision is the application by the Authority of Article 65 of the Italian Consumers Code. This provision was introduced with Legislative Decree no. 21/2014, implementing Directive 2011/83/EU on consumer rights. According to Article 65, “before the consumer is bound by the contract or offer, the trader shall seek the express consent of the consumer to any extra payment in addition to the remuneration agreed upon for the...

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Italian Competition Authority Updates Merger Control Turnover Thresholds

The Italian Competition Authority has updated its merger control turnover thresholds. Effective 14 March 2016, Section 16(1) of Law no. 287 of 10 October 1990 requires prior notification of all mergers and acquisitions where both the following conditions are fulfilled: Aggregate turnover in Italy of all undertakings involved is above € 495 million (revised under the terms of the same Section 16(1)); and Aggregate turnover in Italy of the target company is above € 50 million (as revised) Italy's merger control thresholds are adjusted annually to take into account increases in the GDP deflator index. The updated thresholds will be published in the Competition Authority's Bulletin once this increase in index is announced officially.

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Intellectual Property and Antitrust: Italian Chapter

McDermott has authored the Italian chapter of the 2016 edition of “Intellectual Property & Antitrust” published by Getting the Deal Through, a valuable work tool for legal practitioners dealing with intellectual property and competition law. This chapter addresses the statutes for granting IP rights, enforcement options and remedies, as well as the interplay between Italian IP and competition legislation, jurisdiction of competition and IP agencies, cartels, price maintenance, abuse of dominance and remedies. Read the full article here.

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Italian Merger Control Thresholds – New Revisions

The Italian Competition Authority has updated its merger control turnover thresholds. Effective today, 16 March 2015, Section 16(1) of Law no. 287 of 10 October 1990 requires prior notification of all mergers and acquisitions where both the following conditions are fulfilled: Aggregate turnover in Italy of all undertakings involved is above EUR 492 million (revised under the terms of the same Section 16(1)); AND Aggregate turnover in Italy of the target company is above EUR 49 million (as revised) Italy's merger control thresholds are adjusted annually to take into account increases in the GDP deflator index. The updated thresholds are published in the Competition Authority's Bulletin once this increase in index is announced officially.

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New Joint Protocol of the Italian Competition Authority and the Italian Tax Police

The Italian Competition Authority and the Italian Tax Police (Guardia di Finanza) signed a new Joint Protocol, which provides increased mutual exchange of information and closer cooperation in the context of investigations for alleged breach of antitrust, unfair commercial practices and misleading advertising rules. The new Joint Protocol also sets out specific means of collaboration concerning the legality rating (i.e. a two-year, renewable certification for companies, issued by the Italian Competition Authority upon voluntary filing and designed to facilitate companies’ access to credit from banks and public financial support) and investigations on the supply of agrifood products, under Article 62 of the Law-Decree No 1 of 24 January 2012. Click here to review the text of the Joint Protocol.

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Court of Justice of the European Union Rejects the Appeal of Italian National Extradited to the United States for Price-Fixing Violation

On February 9, the Court of Justice of the European Union made public its January 28, 2015 order rejecting the appeal of Mr. Romano Pisciotti, an Italian national who was extradited from Germany to the United States in April 2014 for his role in the marine hose price-fixing conspiracy. On July 2, 2014, the General Court of the European Union rejected Pisciotti’s appeal as manifestly inadmissible because, under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, individuals do not have power to appeal European Commission’s decisions to not start infringement proceedings. Pisciotti had appealed the European Commission’s April 11, 2014 decision rejecting his complaint against Germany for having granted the extradition to the United States, allegedly in breach of EU law on the freedom to provide services. Mr. Pisciotti is the first foreign national to be successfully extradited to the United States for a price-fixing violation.

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Significant Number of Dawn Raids Shows Increased Antitrust and Criminal Law Enforcement in Italian Pharmaceutical Sector

On 27 November, the Italian Competition Authority dawn raided a major South African company for alleged excessive pricing of its oncology products in Italy. According to a complaint by one of the most active consumer associations in Italy, the group would have required the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) to align the price of its products, which are covered by the National Health Service (NHS), with the higher prices applied in other European countries, threatening the withdrawal of the products from the Italian market. This new investigation is just the latest of many dawn raids that have taken place in Italy throughout 2014 relating to alleged bid rigging and other antitrust and criminal law infringements by pharmaceutical companies, including their participation in public tenders for the supply of products to the NHS. The significant number of dawn raids this year shows increased antitrust and criminal law enforcement in Italy in the pharmaceutical sector....

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